Selecting Hispanic-American Books for the Classroom
Educators have a daunting responsibility for selecting high-quality literature that authentically represents many distinct cultural backgrounds. Here are some helpful suggestions for selecting Hispanic and Hispanic-American books for classroom use:
- Recognize the nature of the labels "Hispanic" and "Hispanic-American," which are umbrella terms that encompass many distinct cultural backgrounds from Central and South America, Spain, and the Caribbean.
- Distinguish between Hispanic and Hispanic-American literature. Books set in Hispanic countries are valuable for classroom
use, but should not supplant those that represent the bicultural experiences of Hispanic Americans living in the U.S. Many
children of Hispanic descent in America's classrooms may connect more readily to books set in the U.S. that reflect the mix
of cultures woven into their everyday lives.
- Look for well-written and beautifully illustrated books that present positive and authentic images of Hispanics and Hispanic-Americans. Good culturally conscious books can communicate to children what it means to be proud of their heritage and
experience as Hispanic-Americans. Try to include books that go beyond the surface aspects of a culture, like specific holidays
and foods, to those that reflect deeper cultural values such as the concern and respect shown between generations in families.
For example, Too Many Tamales! by Gary Soto and Erandi's Braids by Antonio Madrigal present young children with
warm images of love and caring between generations in Mexican and Mexican-American families.
- Consult award lists specifically honoring varied genres of Hispanic and Hispanic-American books. The biennial Pura Belpré Award for Latino Children's Literature selects excellent examples of high-quality multicultural literature that can be enjoyed by all children, such as Chato's Kitchen and Chato and the Party Animals by Gary Soto. The annual Americas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature also specializes in honoring books that reflect Hispanic and Caribbean cultures, such as the excellent photo-essay Fiesta, U.S.A. by George Ancona.
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